On Thursday and Friday of this week I was responsible for facilitating a teambuilding/planning event for everyone in our Global Learning Centre. In UN speak this is called a retreat, which to me suggests going off and spending some quiet time reflecting on the meaning of life, but as the new guy in the office trying to justify my existence I had no reflection at all, and ended up on Friday evening completely exhausted.
However, the weather forecast suggested that the weekend might be, if not mild, not freezing, so I thought that it might be an opportunity for me to get my road bike out, to slip into some lycra and go off and explore somewhere away from the city.
Saturday afternoon was grey, but at least it was about 4°, so I decided to head towards Janos Hegy, which is the highest point in the Buda Hills that overlook the city. One of the strangest things about arriving somewhere by aeroplane in the dark is that you have no idea of where the place is in relation to anything else, so I was keen to find out if there was anything beyond the two-mile radius that I have explored so far.
My plan was to get to the top of the hill and to enjoy the the (apparently) magnificent panorama over Budapest. However, as I slowly pedalled up around the hairpin bend road to get there I realised that it was starting to snow, and by the time I reached the top it was falling quite thickly and the temperature had dropped considerably.
Somehow it didn't seem quite such a good idea to be on my road bike with its relatively thin and smooth tyres. So I pushed on through the falling snow and slushy road in what looked like a sensible direction for going downhill, but then found myself on a major road with a 12% descent, and feeling cold and wet. So by the time I got home I was somewhat frozen and had to check that my feet and hands were still with me.
But then today the sun shone and the temperature had shot up to 6°, so I decided to try again and this time headed up river to a small town called Szentendre, about 12 miles away.
This is a rather beautiful old town on the west bank of the Danube, with narrow, winding cobbled streets and houses painted in lovely autumnal colours.
It has become a centre for artists, and inevitably tourists, so is perhaps a little like St Ives but without the fish and chips. It gets extremely busy during the summer months of course, but on a Sunday in February it was very pleasant indeed.
There were several people, like this woman, standing or sitting with their eyes closed, feeling the warmth of the sun on their face. Magic.
I sat on the wall overlooking the river and ate my sandwiches, thinking about how nice it was to do something as simple as this, and that perhaps the end of winter was in sight.